We’re all guilty of it – we hit the gym with our water bottle in hand, have a hard workout, quench our thirst with some cold water, then leave the bottle in our gym bag or car until the next session.
You might think that there’s nothing wrong with this because washing your bottle over the weekend is enough, isn’t it?
Without regular washing – after every use – water bottles can start to develop mould and could become a breeding ground for bacteria.
A sure sign is an unpleasant odour, which is often accompanied by a strange taste. Even if you washed your bottle, drying and storing it incorrectly can lead to contamination.
Most rigid water bottles are made out of polyethylene plastic, polypropylene or copolyester. Polyethylene tends to retain tastes and odours more easily than polycarbonate bottles, but all plastic bottles are prone to become a cesspool for bacteria.
There are two strategies to take to combat contaminated bottles:
- Step 1: Cleaning
- Step 2: Sterilisation.
Clean and fresh
The best way to clean a water bottle is to rinse it out with hot water and dishwashing soap after every use, then let it air dry, ideally upside down in a drying rack. Otherwise, let it air dry standing up. Placing it on a dishcloth that may be contaminated itself will allow bacteria back into your bottle.
To sterilise a water bottle, use a fit-for-purpose cleaning fluid at least once a month to disinfect it and remove any stubborn mould or bacterial colonies that may have escaped your diligent washing efforts.
Baby bottle sterilising products, purpose-made bleach products or natural alternatives are the best options. It is important that you thoroughly clean the bottle again once it has been sterilised to remove all of the active ingredients or chemicals. This may take more than one wash.
There are also a number of ‘home remedies’ available on the Internet, like using a vinegar and hot water solution to clean your bottle, using baking soda with bleach, rinsing with mouthwash or using lemon juice.
The other options are to buy an aluminium water bottle with an epoxy resin coating, as it is easier to keep free of bacteria, or replace your water bottle every month.
Store it properly
Storing a washed or sterilised water bottle incorrectly will undo all your hard work, so make sure you follow the proper guidelines. If a bottle has any residual liquid inside it when you store it, bacteria and fungi will start to form.
Similarly, don’t store your bottle in a wet or damp area of the kitchen. Also, store the water bottle open with the lid kept separately, but somewhere where you wont lose it. This will ensure that if there is any water left inside it will evaporate instead of starting a new mould colony in the bottle.
It is important to note that the risks of bacterial and fungal growth are higher if you use the bottle for a drink that has a high sugar content, like fruit juice or energy drinks. Similarly, old whey or protein powders that haven’t been cleaned from shakers or water bottles can cause a smell to develop.
One additional point on water bottle hygiene – if you have been sick and haven’t washed or disinfected your bottle properly you will, more than likely, reinfect yourself.
Lastly, it is preferable to purchase a clear plastic water bottle so you can see what is happening inside. If you notice a change in the colour of the plastic from mould build-up, slime or are unable to remove a smell, then it’s time to replace it.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.